UK to make extra checks for van hire

Drivers trying to rent vans in the UK could face additional checks to try and prevent further terrorist attacks similar to that of Barcelona this August.

The police, government and vehicle rental industry have been discussing measures to deter further attacks using vans since mass casualties were inflicted in incidents across Europe from Nice to London.

One measure under consideration is whether customers could be cross-checked immediately by police against terrorist watch lists before hiring a vehicle.

Staff at rental firms are already on the look out for potential criminal activity, with an industry database of suspect customers, but current checks are limited to identity, credit and insurance.

According to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose members handle about 75 per cent of vehicle hires in the UK, most firms are aware of the risks, with counter-terrorism posters and hotline numbers on show in their rental branches. But legal compliance and technology issues would hinder bringing in any universal checks.

Hire companies already access the shared Rental Industry Secure Customer (RISC) database to warn of potential criminal inquiries.

Rental firms are usually unwilling to hire out large trucks to new customers who do not have a business account - the London Bridge terrorists, for instance, had unsuccessfully attempted to hire a 7.5-tonne vehicle. But anyone with a UK driving licence can normally hire a transit van or vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes.

A government spokeswoman said: “The threat from terrorism is changing and so must our response. That is why we are reviewing our counter-terrorism strategy and powers and why we have ploughed extra resources into counter terrorism.

“The Department for Transport is also working with the police and the vehicle rental industry to explore what more can be done to prevent the malicious use of hire vehicles. This includes looking at what more rental companies could do before an individual can hire a vehicle.”

Toby Poston, BVRLA, said: “The industry is obviously determined to prevent these attacks. We’ve been in discussions with various government departments and law enforcement agencies, and we have to make sure we comply with data protection and laws on discrimination.

“Ultimately, the police and government are the only ones who can make any changes. We want some kind of cross referencing of the data given to rental companies and the counter terrorism watchlist.”

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